What is it Like to Work in the Shipyard Industry?

If you’re looking for job security and longevity, consider marine careers and jobs focused on the shipyard industry. Shipyards have been here for thousands of years; they serve to build ships that handle industrial, manufacturing, and even the military needs of our country. Shipyards and the shipping industry category of employment that they fall under, are vitally necessary for transportation and the movement of products, including food.

The shipbuilding business is booming and the industry is anticipated to hit $167 billion by 2026 with a growth rate of about 4% every year. In some countries, that growth is much higher; for example, Korea is predicted to grow by 40% each year. This strong, stable industry works with companies like CTR Group to provide shipyard staffing and recruiting solutions. How can you get involved in some of the marine careers and jobs that are so stable and lucrative? This article will help you understand what it’s like to work with a marine staffing agency in the shipyard industry.

Various Types of Maritime Jobs

It really does take a village to build a ship. Shipbuilding is a complex engineering project that requires skilled designers and assemblers to put everything together. Ships are massive in size, so there are hundreds of skilled workers handling all of the tasks associated with shipbuilding each day on the job. These jobs require a wide variety of specialized skills and the teams to pull this off. Marine staffing agencies help employers with shipyard staffing and recruiting solutions to get them the help they need. If you’re considering marine careers and jobs, here are some of the types of positions available in the shipyard field.


Boilermakers in a shipyard have a diverse array of skills, leveraging several types of machines, tools, and blueprint schematics to help fit a ship together. They handle the smallest details required to fit pieces together, handling tack welding, metal grinding, steel fabrication, and more and more.



Pipefitting is an incredibly precise job. Think about it. Pipefitters must put together all of the piping necessary inside a ship—but in very limited spaces. Pipefitters aren’t plumbers per se, instead ,they are skilled at reading blueprints and then creating a network of pipes that carry everything from water to electrical conduit on a ship.


As you might imagine, skilled welders are critically important to the shipbuilding industry. Welders create the critical connection points between sheet metal to create a watertight environment in a ship. But they also affect the cycle time of the project itself and the quality of the structures being built. If you step onto a cruise ship, a welder puts together everything under your feet, including the frames, girders, hull plates, or any other metal components, including the exterior hull. It might surprise you to learn there are various specialty areas within the field of welding, and each takes time to learn and perfect.

For example, arc welding uses an electric arc to create heat so intense it can melt metals and help glue them together. Arc welding reaches temperatures of 6,500 degrees Fahrenheit. When the metal cools it bonds together to form a metallurgical seam. Within the category of arc welding, you’ll find subspecialties such as:

  • Metal inert gas welding (MIG)
  • Shielded metal arc welding (SMAW)
  • Flux-cored arc welding (FCAW)
  • Electro-slag welding (ESW)


There is also the type of welding known as tungsten inert gas (TIG welding). The process uses a constant power source, either AC or DC to provide the arc between a pointed tungsten electrode and the piece you’re working on.


The old days of building ships from wood are over, but that doesn’t mean that carpenters aren’t still highly in demand. Carpenters perform a critical function by building wooden templates for the hull of the ship. Carpenters, who are skilled craftspeople with saws, hammers, and drills, also create templates for sea pipes and build dock and keel blocks that support the ship during dry dock when it is being built.

Inside & Outside Machinist

Machinists are ship troubleshooters, working either outside or inside the ship to perform general maintenance tasks. This is a particularly interesting job because the tasks vary so widely. For example, you can assemble, install, or repair motors, propulsion devices, steering, pumps, and more. It’s a great job to get into because no two days are the same.

All of these professions come together in today’s modern shipyard. Marine careers and jobs are sophisticated, requiring special skills now more than ever before. What are the skills and qualifications you need to work in the shipyard industry?

What are the Qualifications to Work in a Shipyard?

The qualifications to work in a shipyard are as diverse as the jobs themselves. Higher-end, less mechanical jobs, such as marine surveyors require the study of engineering, as does the profession of naval architecture. But the majority of jobs are handled by welding and fabrication, carpenters, pipefitters, and boilermakers. This workforce is the bread and butter of the shipyard workforce. These teams actually deploy, create, and install the concepts that bring a ship to life.

Most of these skilled labor positions require a high school diploma and some technical training. This not only includes learning and practicing your particular trade, but also understanding safety in a fast-paced, potentially hazardous environment. Too, skilled workers in the shipyard industry usually complete an apprenticeship program. They may have on-the-job training, as well. There is usually testing involved with these processes to ensure that the skilled tradesperson is fully equipped to hit the ground running in their particular area of expertise.

Things to Know Before Working in a Shipyard Job

Working in a shipyard is a physical job. You’ll need some strength and the ability to withstand the elements if you’re working outside. Moving materials and handling physical labor are all important to the job. The job may not be strenuous but it will use both your mind and body as you ply your craft. You may operate heavy machinery or other dangerous equipment. You’ll need to stay aware of your surroundings and carefully perform your craft.

Safety is of Utmost Importance

The reality of working in a shipyard is that this is potentially dangerous work. These professionals are paid well but they carry the responsibility not only of the lives of the people that will ultimately use the ship they’re building but to also stay safe while they’re building it. Situational awareness is critically important in the shipyard. It’s also important to understand the proper equipment to use in situations that can be physically challenging. Heavy machinery, electricity, tight spaces, and more, all make this a job where your training and awareness of the environment will be tested every day.

Critical Thinking Must be Exercised

These jobs will challenge your ability to troubleshoot and communicate with a team. Far from being a one-stop-shop, you’ll interact with other professionals in the business as you work together to assemble the pieces of these great ships. You’ll also need to think critically about how your work impacts others and you’ll also use these skills to determine the best way to troubleshoot an issue. Your critical thinking skills will also help you prioritize the myriad tasks you have each day and solve all kinds of people or equipment problems as they flare up.

Trade Skills are of Great Value

If you have trade skills, you’re in luck; there are plenty of marine careers and jobs to keep you busy. Some of the trade skills highest in demand are welding and steel fabrication, any kind of pipework and plumbing, carpentry, and more.

Technical workers emphasize drafting and quality control. But it’s the skilled workers who install the sophisticated surveying, propulsion, and electrical systems that power these big ships.

The expertise you bring to your particular trade ensures the proper build from ship design to launch. In addition to your hands-on experience, you’ll need soft skills such as:

  • Good troubleshooting skills.
  • Strong ability to work quickly and accurately in your trade.
  • Organizational skills and the ability to hit deadlines.
  • Great teamwork skills and communication.

CTR Group Can Help You Land Your Next Shipyard Job Today

CTR Group is a maritime job placement agency that works with shipyard professionals and employers to find the perfect match. Our work to provide shipyard staffing and recruiting solutions has been a successful part of that industry since 1987. Today, we are a well-respected marine staffing agency providing talent in four locations in California, Florida, Georgia, and Virginia. If you’re seeking Newport News shipyard employment or work in our other markets we can help. Our client businesses span several industries including:

  • Military
  • Technical firms
  • Aerospace
  • Aviation
  • Energy
  • Medical
  • And many more!

For 30 years, our shipyard staffing and recruiting solutions have been a top choice for leading professional companies in this industry. Call on us to see what we can do for your career


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